Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History, has written more than 50 books specializing in British Christianity. These books include: The Monastery Murders, clerical mysteries; Lord Danvers Investigates, Victorian true-crime; The Elizabeth and Richard series, literary suspense; and Glastonbury, The Novel of Christian England. She loves research and sharing you-are-there experiences with her readers.
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Donna Fletcher Crow, Novelist of British History
A traveling researcher engages people and places from Britain's past and present, drawing comparisons and contrasts between past and present for today's reader.
By Fay Sampson ~ July 8, 2015
Given my love of places, and particularly ancient sacred sites, it was not surprising that I chose to celebrate my 80th birthday at Avebury. Avebury is less well known than nearby Stonehenge, but it is in some ways even more evocative.
We stayed in a guesthouse which is probably the only B&B in the world where you wake up in the middle of a Neolithic stone circle.
The circle of massive sarsen stones, with other arrangements of stones within it, dates back four and a half thousand years. The surrounding bank and very deep ditch are even older. Like later Celtic monasteries, the ditch is inside the bank, marking it out as a sacred site, not a defensive one.
And the henge is just part of a whole sacred landscape. Family joined us for a celebration archaeological walk. This took us from Avebury down the West Kennet stone avenue, up to the cluster of round barrows on Overton Hill, on to the West Kennet Long Barrow, one of the finest burial chambers in the UK, past the massive and enigmatic Silbury Hill, and back for champagne in the Avebury stone circle.
Silbury Hill is intriguing. Archaeologists have dug down from the top and tunnelled in through the side, but have found only blocks of chalk. No burial chamber. We can only guess why it was built. It must have been a striking landmark when it was bare white chalk, just as the bank around Avebury was. And all the excavation of the deep ditch at Avebury was done with antler picks.
We rounded off our day with a family meal at a thatched pub.
Of course, you will be wondering, is there going to be a book about this? I have written two crime novels about my sleuths Hilary and Veronica, The Wounded Thorn, set in the sacred settlement of Glastonbury, and The Wounded Snake (not yet published), based on the historic town of Totnes. Certainly Avebury would lend itself to being the next setting.
But when I am researching for a novel set in a real place, I need to be very aware, not just of the obvious historic or prehistoric sites, but lesser things, like the view from a certain vantage point, details of the local hostelry, the vegetation and the kinds of trees. I didn’t want to spend my celebration making notes of all these little things, and taking photos of only practical use.
Still, if I do write the book, and can’t remember these details, it will be a great excuse to go back again.
Fay Sampson (UK) is a writer of adult and children's fiction and non-fiction, including A MALIGNANT HOUSE, #2 in the Susie Fewings series, a British Crime Club Pick. http://www.faysampson.co.uk
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